Arteology: TGIF and the Weekend Listings

Arteology: A new Artomatic column by DC based artist and gallerist at The Cabinet, Claudia Vess.

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WKEND 1 PLAN

When the expression “TGIF” first hit the radio trottoir (sidewalk radio i.e. word- of-mouth), it hit the streets along with the proliferation of acronymic references in daily speech as a reminder that it was time to think ahead to Saturday and Sunday. TGIF was a welcome reminder to look in the Weekend Section of the Washington Post (WP) and in the City Paper for a play, movie, concert , exhibition or lecture- or two-to spice up the weekend. But since February, TGIF Weekend Listing searching is DEAD (not an acronym). Unfortunately, now finding diverse entertainment options has become onerous and the grievous omission of the Gallery and Art Spaces listing has surfaced in many recent conversations.  Listings are missed.

Here is a letter written by Rosemary Luckett, Manassas owner of Second Rivers Studio, to the WP Editor about the ML (missing listings) as published in the 2/14/15 WP “Free for All”, under the heading “Squeezing out the Art Galleries:”

As a professional artist, I lament the discontinuation of art gallery listings and art photos in The Post’s Weekend section. These listings promoted the cultural life of the District and surrounding areas. The listing format may not seem as exciting to readers as a movie synopsis, never-ending political conflict or even the latest restaurant menu. Nonetheless, art listings tell a story about essential visual “soul” food offered to residents and visitors. I hope the paper will reconsider the elimination of these listings. Local galleries and their artists rely on them as they struggle to remain viable.

Events and Festivals and Families listings have also been cut. Although listings of nightclubs, concerts museums, theaters and film have been reduced, they too may be eliminated. The Weekend Listings document cultural life in the Nation’s Capital. If a listing is not printed in paper does it exist? The WP says “newsprint costs are too high” and management believes that readers find “more value in stories.” Frankly, besides reinstating listings, I would prefer more investigative news and fewer front-page stories that stretch to three pages with oversized filler photographs.

No longer considered important enough to document in print, listings of Live Local Culture (LLC) are left to digital interface: Facebook, social and special interest mailing lists, and evites that inundate mailboxes. Many languish in spam. The WP digital listings are not easy to get to, hard to read on a smart phone in daylight, and lack the “seen at glance” visual variety available in print pages of the Weekend Section. While digital dissemination is supposed to reach astronomical numbers of people, it tends to create special interest cognoscenti circles. These bulk blasts also may be unnecessarily clogging up the Internet.  Scan/reading print listings, it is easy to find events that I might not think to search for on the Internet. These serendipidous discoveries are important; they keep readers in touch with the greater community and provide options for new knowledge and experiences. Not to mention, the technology of circling events with pen/pencil is extremely time effective, more so than scrolling through 400 pictures of dogs, cats, mugs of beer and mug shots-the entertainment value notwithstanding. David Carr, esteemed NYT journalist in the thick of the print/digital transition, asserted his affinity for print news often enough that Matt Schudel, a NYTimes Media Critic, writing in the 2/14/15 WP about Carr two days after his death says,

Ever the Contrarian, he [David Carr] pointed out that the ‘paper itself is a wonderful technology. It’s got very high resolution. It’s totally searchable. You can turn the page and look through what you want. It’s very portable. You can carry it wherever you want. 

Besides the first level of newspaper usability, the restyling WP focus group may have neglected to consider the second and third lives of newspapers. Artists are continually covering tables all over the city with news, perusing layouts as they go while preparing for art activities both professional and social (classes and events). Photos are re-examined, sometimes used to illustrate a point of composition to a student; articles are re-read, sometimes torn out and tacked on a bulletin board. The second or third reconsideration of an article has great value. Measured against the current formulation of the scoop, this activity constitutes significant discourse between readers, and the paper. Here is the crucible where measured civic opinion is forged.

After a couple of weeks of stewing about ML, I telephoned the WP Weekend Section to inquire about the disappearance of Galleries and Art Spaces listings. Luckily, a culture-writer answered the phone and said that the paper had only had objections from listers (NB: listings are free, newsprint dear), not from users of the listings. While I cannot deny that I am sometimes lucky to have an exhibition (often several years in the making) listed, I am also a user and a subscriber. After an interesting conversation, the culture-writer suggested writing to the WP.

Culture contributes not only to good will and relief from toil, but also to commerce and city development. (Remember the WPA, galleries and Landsburgh’s on 7th Street, the galleries and theatres on 14th St. For reports on arts, business and development see www.americansforthearts.org.) Lucy Blankstein, artist, gallerist and former museum professional, pointed out in a letter, 2/19/15, to the WP editor that the Post should be “celebrating this wealth of creativity” in greater DC, and that the listings support “local businesses that make Washington DC a cultural city.” She also wrote on March 10, 2015 to new WP owner, Jeffrey Bezos:

           Dear Jeffrey Bezos:

I have lived in Washington, DC on and off for over 50 years. I have steadfastly supported the Washington Post.

Every Friday throughout the years, the Washington Post has listed not only the big institutional Art Galleries and Museums, but the local galleries throughout the Washington, DC region. Washington, DC has important and serious professional artists. The Washington Post has kept the galleries from falling off the radar screen by publishing these lists. For many people, if it doesn’t exist in the newspaper then it doesn’t count. The Washington Post is the only important newspaper that we have. The small papers like The Current Newspapers, The Hill Rag, the City Paper and of course The Washington Times do not have extensive gallery listings.

Throughout the region, local galleries have contributed to the economic development of many neighborhoods. With the troubling economic situation of the last number of years, many galleries have had to close. I think a serious newspaper should recognize and support local galleries and celebrate local area artists.

Those of us who have kept up our subscriptions in spite of the attention given to reviews and stories that don’t interest us, now are faced with the deletion of something that is of importance to us.

Please restore the Weekend gallery listing to the Washington Post.

Sincerely,

Lucy J. Blankstein

Since the first Weekend Section without listings, I have not looked forward to Fridays (NLFF). We artists do read Mark Jenkins, Sarah Kaufman, Michael O’Sullivan, and other WP cultural reviewers. Over the years visual and other arts in the region have burgeoned, as attendance at month-long Art-O-Matic events reveals. Eliminating Weekend Listings does not represent the vitality of the city.

Artist L.A. Mark expressed NLFF by writing to the WP Editor:

Why in the world should I continue to support The Post? Local artists have long received only scant attention in Post pages. … At least restore Gallery listings in Weekend!

Objection letters and subscription cancellations by crossword puzzle users were successful in reversing a short-lived reduced-size puzzle in the WP. Let this success story inspire you to take to your keyboard and email the WP Editor (editor@washpost.com), the Weekend Section Editor (camille.kilgore@washpost.com) and WP owner Jeffrey Bezos (jeffbezos@amazon.com) that users of the Weekend Listings want them back in print. Although Mr. Bezos may not personally read your letter, he may be sensitive to the reported print preferences of his readers who also buy print books from Amazon.

Meanwhile, I’ll be frequenting cafes keeping an ear out for art news on Radio Trottoir (RT) of upcoming events that I might otherwise miss.

 

One thought on “Arteology: TGIF and the Weekend Listings

  1. Claudia, thank you for writing about this. I agree with all that you said. I’m a subscriber to the Post, and I see that the Weekend section has all you want to know about music and movies and food, but local artists are invisible. And, of course, during the week there’s a ton of attention to Food, and movies. Many artists work in a vacuum
    and the absence of Gallery listings hurts the artists. Artists and galleries have to rely on our mailing lists and social media to get the word out to the public about exhibits. I will follow up with email to the Washington Post as you supplied.

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